Thursday, September 04, 2008

The Worst First Day

Today is a very important day in our home. Today was the first day of school (unless you count this, of course). And, if I may be so bold as to say so, it was a disaster. I don't even have any pictures to show you. That's how bad it was. No pictures of the first day of school.

My Munchkin started preschool this morning. It's just preschool. She's just three. It's two mornings a week for two hours each morning. It's not a big deal. Right?

It really started last night at the parent orientation meeting. My husband and I found it ironic that the literature we were given stressed that young children need plenty of sleep, about eleven hours a night - but we were kept in the meeting until 8:30. After picking our daughter up from the home of the friends who were watching her, and then going through our regular bedtime routine, this meant that our daughter was not in bed until 10:00. Yeah. That's late for a three year old.

This morning she woke up at 6:00, distraught and tired. She climbed into bed with us. Knowing that she was exhausted, I let her sleep as long as I dared: 8:00. Then we had to wake her up. If you have kids, you no doubt have experienced the phenomenon of being awakened by an exuberant child earlier than you would like on every morning, except those mornings when you have to be somewhere. Then the child wants to sleep. That's just how it works. So we woke her up at 8:00, and she was cranky and slow-moving. I brushed her hair while she ate her yogurt. That went well. That is the only thing that went well. She finished her breakfast and we told her to try to use the bathroom. She didn't want to. We made her anyway. She tried, crying the whole time. She didn't go. Since she woke up dry, this did not bode well. (You know what's coming, don't you?)

She continued to cry as we dressed her. This, by the way, is not normal for our child. She's usually pretty easy going and happy, especially in the morning. We suspected that she was acting out of nervousness, which made it a little difficult to know how to react. She cried until she was buckled into her carseat...and then she was fine. I was a mess by that point, feeling angry and disappointed, but not wanting to display those emotions to my daughter and make her any more anxious about the day.

We arrived at the school just on time and entered the classroom with the other families. Today's class was only one hour, and parents were to stay with their child. We met the teachers and some of the other families. One of my daughter's friends from church is in her class, and the two of them promptly settled themselves at the puzzle table together. She decorated a crayon-shaped name tag, writing her own name. She was thrilled to find a toy kitchen and probably would have spent the rest of the morning there, had circumstances allowed it. We were feeling pretty good about the whole thing at that point. I had calmed down and decided to forget the challenges that we had faced at home. Then...she turned around and gave me the "uh-oh" look. It was too late. She was wet. She was clearly not pleased about this happening, and neither were we.

She's not completely potty-trained. We know this. I spoke with the preschool director last week and was very open with her about this fact. She was kind and helpful. But, despite being not quite completely trained, our daughter has never had an accident away from home, not since she started wearing regular underpants. Plenty of accidents at home, but never away from home. For this reason, we have not been too worried about her potential success at preschool. But today, on the first day of school, she stood in her classroom and had an accident. We again stayed calm, trying to make this day as happy as possible for her. Andy ran home to get a change of clothes. I know...we should have had one with us. We have had a change of clothes in the car for weeks. I brought it inside earlier this week. My daughter and I waited in the hallway of the school until Andy returned. This would have been okay if we had been alone. We weren't. The preschool director and another mom were in the hall, and when the director asked if she could help with anything, I lost it. The whole frustrating morning - the exhausted child, the fight to get her ready, the way everything went exactly opposite of the way I had pictured it, and then the accident - I was unable to juggle it all in my heart any longer. I cried. The director tried to comfort me, no doubt thinking I was an emotional mom who couldn't handle her child's first day of school. I guess that is technically correct, although it really wasn't about my daughter growing up or gaining independence or not needing me or anything like that. Or if it was about that, it was not at a conscious level. For me, it was about having a rotten morning. It was about feeling angry and disappointed and embarrassed. It was about sitting out 25 minutes of a one hour class session. The director was so kind, but when I feel like that, I don't want to be comforted, at least not in public and by a stranger. I want to be left alone. Left alone, I can compose myself. Being "ooh"-ed and "there, there"-ed over simply opens the floodgates. It was terrible. At one point I managed to say that I really was fine, and the director said, "Oh, I know, you're just hormonal"...which sounds condescending, but it wasn't. She's right. I'm 35 weeks pregnant and haven't slept a comfortable, uninterrupted eight hours in weeks. I'm tired and, truly, hormonal. I was not this emotional during my first pregnancy, but this time around...well, my husband is a wonderfully patient man.

My husband got back with the change of clothes, we changed said clothes, and we joined the rest of the class for the closing circle time. Well...Andy and my daughter joined the class, I took a few minutes alone in the restroom to finish my cry and make myself presentable. Then we were fine. My daughter was happy and interacted with her teachers and the other students just fine. They had all the parents leave the room at the end of class, a sort of strange attempt to practice the usual pick-up routine and to find out which children would react poorly to having their parents leave. One poor little boy ran out of the room wailing. I felt so badly for him. During the entire hour, he had clung to his mother, who kept trying to push him away and make him play with the other children, saying things like, "All of the other children are good, and you are bad. You need to be good like the other children". Yikes. Poor kid. Anyway, our daughter had no problem with us leaving, never has, so at least we had reassurance about that.

She has been fine ever since then. Happy. Dry. Obedient. I'm sure she was tired and anxious, and I want to be sensitive to that. One of these days, I'll look back on today and laugh...right? Well, maybe not. Maybe this morning was just a life lesson, teaching me once again that the best-laid plans of mice and moms often go awry. Of all the lessons my children have taught and are teaching me, this is the one that is reviewed most often. Some days it is easier to accept than others.

The bottom line is that today was the first day of preschool, and my daughter enjoyed herself and is excited to go back. And that's what matters. And to make the day brighter for both of us, I baked sugar cookies when we got home. The dough was not homemade, and I don't care.


miss rika said...

It is over! You made it! Whee!! Celebrating with cookies was a very wise thing to do, and I applaud you for your patience and kindness. I am not sure how mothers do these things. God bless your work:)

Kate said...

Days like that truly are the worst, and maybe one day you will not look back and laugh, but boy does it make a great story. Milestones can be amazing, miraculous, joyful, but they can also be tearful, frustrating and come complete with soiled clothes. Our one and only job at these milestones is to be fully present,(open to the moment) and Holly dear that is a gift that you have in spades. Blessing on your mommy lessons.